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McKeesport's Austin Davis thinks he has a shot a winning Democratic nomination in Pa. Lt. Governor's race

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette logo Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 5/14/2022 By Hallie Lauer / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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The race to be the governor's right hand is a crowded one with three Democrats and nine Republicans all vying for the lieutenant governor’s job, but McKeesport native Austin Davis thinks he has a pretty good shot.

Known as the state’s second-in-command, it is the job of the lieutenant governor to oversee the state Senate, the Board of Paroles and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

Only two in this race, Mr. Davis and Republican Teddy Daniels, have aligned themselves with gubernatorial candidates. Though they don’t officially run on the same ticket until the general election, this type of endorsement isn’t uncommon.

Mr. Davis has teamed up with the only Democratic governor candidate and current Attorney General, Josh Shapiro.

“I feel really good about my chances,” Mr. Davis said on Thursday. “I think Josh and I have a great relationship and people should feel [that] the way we’ve run this campaign.”

Throughout the campaign the two have traveled together at various times, including this past week, to meet with voters ahead of the May 17 primary.

“That’s not just for show,” Mr. Davis said. “We’re dedicated to having a real partnership and working together as a team.”

A state representative for the 35th District, Mr. Davis was elected in 2018, and was the district’s first Black representative.

If things go his way on Tuesday and then again in November, Mr. Davis will be the first person of color elected as lieutenant governor, a feat he said he “does not take lightly.”

Mr. Davis boiled down his plan if elected to three main goals one of which is supporting a strong economy in Pennsylvania, particularly in helping those who are “struggling to recover” from the pandemic.

The second goal is to make sure children are getting a “quality education.”

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the strong public schools and public school teachers I had at McKeesport public schools,” Mr. Davis said.

The final goal is to “make sure that the Commonwealth is a partner in creating ladders of opportunities for folks to join the middle class.”

This would include things like raising the minimum wage, increasing access to affordable healthcare and lowering prescription drug costs, Mr. Davis said.

Mr. Shapiro isn’t the only notable endorsement Mr. Davis has received, though, current Gov. Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party have all backed the candidate.

He has also received an endorsement from Planned Parenthood and said he was “proud” of his voting history as he’s voted against “every single bill to restrict a woman’s right to choose.”

The other candidate building a relationship with a gubernatorial candidate is Mr. Daniels, who has been endorsed by state Sen. Doug Mastriano who is currently leading the polls on the Republican side in the governor’s race.

Hailing from Wayne County Mr. Daniels, like many of the other GOP candidates, is pro-life and pro-Second Amendment and has previously described himself as a “ruffle-your-feathers type person.”

He has also openly spoken about making healthcare more affordable through things like lowering the cost of prescription drugs.

The veteran and retired police officer has recently been making news for a temporary protection-from-abuse order that his wife had filed against him. A judge dismissed the order on May 6 after attorneys questioned the motivation behind it.

Despite his endorsement from Mr. Mastriano, Mr. Daniels’ court battles may have opened the door for another Republican to gain traction among voters.

State Rep. Carrie DelRosso, of Oakmont, has been making her rounds across Pennsylvania over the last week meeting with voters from various counties.

Part of Ms. DelRosso’s campaign has centered on her victory over Democrat Frank Dermody in the 33rd District in 2020. Mr. Dermody, who was the House Minority Leader at the time, had been the district’s incumbent since 1991.

In an interview Ms. DelRosso did with the Lackawanna County Commissioner on May 9, she said she “knocked on 13,000 doors” to win that district.

“[I had] a decent relationship with him,” she said during the interview of Mr. Dermody. “But thought it was time for him to retire, and he didn’t want to retire so unfortunately I had to retire him.”

Her focus has been on bringing jobs back to Pennsylvania and preventing further COVID-19 related shutdowns, she said. She has also given her full support to backing law enforcement and received an endorsement from the Pittsburgh Police union.

Joining Mr. Davis in the race on the Democratic side are state Rep. Brian Sims and Ray Sosa.

Mr. Sims has been serving in the state House since 2013, as the first openly gay person elected to the General Assembly.

He also believes in criminal justice reform and being the overseer of the Board of Pardons is a good way to “bring justice to those who have been falsely imprisoned,” he said.

Mr. Sosa ran for lieutenant governor in 2018 as the first Pennsylvania Latino do so, against eventual winner John Fetterman.

He has not previously held a public office, but has served on various emergency response task forces under former Pennsylvania governors Tom Ridge, Mark Schweiker and Ed Rendell, according to PennLive.

In addition to Mr. Daniels, there are eight other Republicans vying for the nomination including former state Rep. Rick Saccone.

Mr. Saccone served four terms in the state House from 2011 to 2019. He ran for Congress during the 2018 special election where he lost to current U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb.

Mr. Saccone received backlash for his involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in Washington. He never entered the building, but had posted a video on his Facebook standing outside the Capitol in view of the rioters, yelling things that were taken by some as encouragement. 

The video led to him resigning from his job as an adjunct professor at Saint Vincent College.

Mr. Saccone has built his lieutenant governor’s campaign on issues like tax reform and protecting the Second Amendment.

Russ Diamond, currently in his fourth term in the Legislature, also has shifted his focus from the House of Representatives to the lieutenant governor’s seat. His goal is to root out waste, fraud and abuse in the government, he said.

Also on the Republican ballot is former state representative Jeff Coleman, Northampton County Councilman John Brown, New Castle Mayor Chris Frye, former legislative aide Clarice Schillinger and businessman James Jones.

Hallie Lauer: hlauer@post-gazette.com

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